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Specifying the Kind of Story Feedback You Want

Negrek

Chill Certainty
Staff
The mod team's been throwing around some ideas for how we might be able to help writers get the kind of feedback that's going to be most useful to them and help reviewers know what sorts of comments writers would appreciate. We have writers here with all different backgrounds who want different things out of writing fanfic, and reviewers with all different styles. Especially for review events where people may be checking out work from authors they don't know well or might not ordinarily have read, the mod team thought it would be helpful for reviewers to have some way to tell what kind of feedback an author was looking for. Before we try to implement anything, we wanted to hear what the community thought about how we might solve this problem.

One option would simply be to encourage writers to include a section in their posts outlining what sort of feedback they'd be interested in: reactions to characters and story events or writing critique, stylistic suggestions but no grammar nitpicks, concrit only on recent chapters because they probably won't be editing old ones further, etc. This is the most flexible option, since writers would be able to get as granular as they liked in terms of the feedback requested.

Another option would be to establish some standardized review styles or levels: someone might request only "level 1" reviews if they didn't want any negative feedback at all, or perhaps "level 3" if they'd like critique on worldbuilding, characters, and plot, but aren't interested in feedback on their writing style. This would provide a common classification of review styles to make it quick and easy for readers and writers to specify what they're looking for or understand what someone wants, while leaving the option of making more specific requests in a note on the fic available for authors.

There are plenty of other options as well, like doing freeform feedback requests but also providing a list of some common opt-in/opt-out critique options to give people who might not even know the sort of feedback they're looking for a sense of their options. If you think there are others worth considering, please throw them out there!

In general we're interested in any suggestions you might have for how we can help people get the kind of feedback they're hoping for/help reviewers give authors the feedback that's going to be the most useful to them. Do any of the options above sound good, or do you have ideas for others? Is this even something you think we need to work on, or do you think the way things are now is fine?
 

Equitia

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
he/him
Partner
espurr
I like the idea of just encouraging people to include a section in their posts that explains the feedback they want.
Agreed. Even if a level system is implemented, I feel people will still end up making custom requests because it will be difficult to account for all preferences.

Encouraging people to specify want kind of review they'd like sounds great, though! I feel like there's hesitance related to this on both writers' and reviewers' parts. Some writers seem like they don't want to be too picky, and I've seen some reviewers wonder if certain kinds of feedback would be helpful or not. Having review specifications become part of the culture would make everyone more comfortable, I think. Maybe the Fanfiction Posting Guidelines could be edited to state that specifying is a valid and encouraged option?
 
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OldschoolJohto

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
I like the idea of levels just because it's streamlined. I'm not stoked to read through a wall of text, then read a chapter, and then try to say something intelligent about a chapter.

But I love the idea of folks doing some self-reflection on what they're looking to get out of a review. Saves me from wasting energy, TBH. And! I think if you know what you want from a review, you're more likely to get something useful from it. Asking good questions and/or having good boundaries is a really, really good system to live and learn by.
 

SparklingEspeon

Insquisitabilitating
Pronouns
She/Her
I guess I'll be the weird one and say that I think this is potentially a good idea, but IMO it works best when kept vague or as a 'soft' suggestion. My idea of a soft suggestion would be a thread where people could post their review preferences: Saying things like "I prefer line-by-line critique/broad story criticism" or "I can't handle harsh criticism" sounds reasonable, tbh, and a good way of gauging where peoples' boundaries/preferences are.

I would not like something rigid like the level system, or for those suggestions to be imposed on reviewers as necessities. I would feel very muzzled writing a "level X" review where I could only focus on a specific aspect of the story/only offer positive feedback, and likewise it doesn't feel quite right to impose review preferences on other people as necessities, even if it's preferred that you do follow them.

In short, I would encourage people listing review preferences, but not so much people setting a hard precedent and saying "here's the specific kind of thing that I want, you're ONLY allowed to do that".
 
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K_S

Bug Catcher
How about a input that you can type in in a limited segment away from the story text? An extension of the user profile seems easier, if the authors have a quick note on the start of each fic that says "log in and click my user name to see reviewing preferences" that'll keep a certina amount of bog down the a minimum. Or even an extension on the username scroll over that can only manifest in the fanfiction section that either links to a preference checklist or paragraph of such and such characters long?

Or how about just a pinned thred in the fanfic section titled "Fanfic review preferences"?
 
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Tanuki

Friend of All Chu
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
I don’t know how easy this would be to implement, but there could be an option in our profiles similar to pronouns, titles, and partner pokémon. Many of us have multiple stories, so it’d be a lot easier to put the desired criticism in our blurb than to copypaste the same spoiler in all stories and even chapters.

I also haven’t read this thread, so I might be missing something that makes this a bad idea.
 

DeliriousAbsol

*Crazy Absol Noises*
Staff
Location
Behind a laptop, most likely with tea
Pronouns
She/Her
I quite like what Tanuki suggested to put it in our profiles in some way. There is a chance this could be overlooked, but it would make things easier if it was possible?

Other than that, I think listing preferences in a spoiler tag is a good option. The tiers, as others have suggested, can be quite limiting for those wanting feedback and would likely be modified quite frequently. Perhaps a checklist people can copy into a spoiler tag? A list of items, and they just delete the ones they don't want? (Saves on word-count!)
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her
Partner
silvally-grass
^echoing what Love said--level of feedback for me really depends on the story. There are some stories where I'm like, please, do not poke this one too hard, it's bad and I had to publish it for a contest and it literally only exists outside of that one; feel free to hit it as hard as you want but I know it's bad and I would also just rather you do literally anything else.

I do love the idea! Would really be helpful to get an idea of what people want out of a review; primarily as a reviewer I think it would save me a lot of time and stress trying to figure out what to give people. I see why it could be limiting to some people, but personally I'd just be glad to know if anyone wants to hear semicolon lectures or if I should just yeet that whole section.

I think the level system is most streamlined and could be just dropped either as a tag or maybe even as a I/II/III in the thread title (up there with pokemon/non-pokemon). I already read and am aware of content warnings before the chapters start so if it's just a fast like "oh, I want Level I crit--please don't take this story seriously" or "Level III crit, rip me to shreds". Granularity of levels is kind of a tricky question and I have been known to suggest vastly overcomplicated systems as a knee-jerk, but at first glance I think they'd work better as high-level categories (like basically just soft/medium/hard) and then authors can tack on additional clarification as they see fit.
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partner
purrloin-salem
I would get very hung up on a "review level" system and and I don't think it's freeform enough that I'd want to use it.

I think it would be great to normalise putting your hopes and boundaries for reviews in your threads, though! I already do this in the DE thread, although I've basically just specified that all comments are welcome as clearly as I can 😅
 

OldschoolJohto

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
I agree that levels should be simple and kinda loose. I want a ballpark idea of how sensitive someone is, not a 12-step plan, LOL. I think Espy is right that these should be seen as preferences, not guarantees. My softest baby review might still hit someone harder than they wanted, but if I genuinely did my best, their reaction is out of my control, you know? I’m also wary of having to hop around multiple places and search a thread to find someone’s review preferences before I dig in. I want it centralized and streamlined as much as possible.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her
Partner
silvally-grass
I guess for people hung up on review level system—for me I just see it as a way to very loosely codify what some people already do, and to encourage those who wouldn’t think to tag review preferences to do so. Same as how having content warnings doesn’t prevent people from writing things that require cw (and doesn’t prohibit people from reading) but encouraging/requiring cw does remind authors to be mindful of reader expectations.

A sample level system to fall into “loosely codify” would for me be as basic as:
1. No crit of any kind; positive comments only
2. Concrit permissible, focus on the pros over the cons
3. Anything is fine

I’m 80% sure anyone’s current preferences already slot into this and it’s just a matter of saying what specifically you want out of a given category?

“I already tag review pref” is good, great, bless, thank you, you save reviewers a lot of heartache. But the vast majority of stories don’t have those, and while it historically hasn’t stopped me from reviewing altogether I’d really love to know what an author actually wants to hear, and would prefer any system that normalizes getting people to state that up front. Doesn’t have to be numbered levels but currently it’s not really a super common practice to say anything lol.

brb frantically checking to make sure I’ve tagged review preference in my own stuff
 

Negrek

Chill Certainty
Staff
Awesome discussion so far! Thanks everyone who's shared their perspective. I wanted to jump in quick to offer some info about what is/is not possible in some of the suggestions so far.

It would be possible to make a custom profile field where someone could enter their review preferences. However, putting it in the HUD with other user info (pronouns, partner pokémon, location, etc.) isn't possible because there wouldn't be space, and a "hover-over" or "rollover" option would unfortunately be difficult to implement, so it at least wouldn't be available out of the gate. So you would need to directly visit someone's profile to see what they'd entered. A possible alternative would be to create a thread where people would post their preferences, and then there could be a link to their post added to their profile HUD. One way or another it would require some kind of clickthrough.

It would also be possible to add a field to threads created in the fanfic forum for review preferences that when filled out would appear set off above the normal post body for the first post in the thread.

Maybe the Fanfiction Posting Guidelines could be edited to state that specifying is a valid and encouraged option?
Regardless of what else we might decide, this will definitely happen!

I guess I'll be the weird one and say that I think this is potentially a good idea, but IMO it works best when kept vague or as a 'soft' suggestion. My idea of a soft suggestion would be a thread where people could post their review preferences: Saying things like "I prefer line-by-line critique/broad story criticism" or "I can't handle harsh criticism" sounds reasonable, tbh, and a good way of gauging where peoples' boundaries/preferences are.

I would not like something rigid like the level system, or for those suggestions to be imposed on reviewers as necessities. I would feel very muzzled writing a "level X" review where I could only focus on a specific aspect of the story/only offer positive feedback, and likewise it doesn't feel quite right to impose review preferences on other people as necessities, even if it's preferred that you do follow them.

In short, I would encourage people listing review preferences, but not so much people setting a hard precedent and saying "here's the specific kind of thing that I want, you're ONLY allowed to do that".
I definitely agree that we should be careful to make it clear that people can only ask to receive a certain kind of review. We can't guarantee what they receive. However, I do think it would be reasonable to expect that if people said they specifically did not want to receive a certain kind of feedback, that they wouldn't get it. Like if someone said "positive comments only, no critique," and you thought their plot was just awful and unrealistic and boring, you'd have to ask yourself whether you're okay writing a review that simply doesn't mention the plot in any way, or if it would be better to simply not leave this particular story a review. But saying, "I would really appreciate feedback on my conlang," well, maybe not everyone has thoughts on your conlang or would feel qualified to comment; I don't think any reviewer would be a jerk for leaving feedback that didn't touch on that element.
 

SparklingEspeon

Insquisitabilitating
Pronouns
She/Her
I definitely agree that we should be careful to make it clear that people can only ask to receive a certain kind of review. We can't guarantee what they receive. However, I do think it would be reasonable to expect that if people said they specifically did not want to receive a certain kind of feedback, that they wouldn't get it. Like if someone said "positive comments only, no critique," and you thought their plot was just awful and unrealistic and boring, you'd have to ask yourself whether you're okay writing a review that simply doesn't mention the plot in any way, or if it would be better to simply not leave this particular story a review. But saying, "I would really appreciate feedback on my conlang," well, maybe not everyone has thoughts on your conlang or would feel qualified to comment; I don't think any reviewer would be a jerk for leaving feedback that didn't touch on that element.
Certainly; I'm not advocating that we disregard things like boundaries or anything like that. I'm thinking more like specifications: If someone says they want, say, a line-by-line criticism review/broad overall commentary, then are the reviewers who wouldn't normally do it that way then obligated to change their style to match the person's preference, or is presenting that as an obligation too much? Or what if someone wants prose critique but not story critique, but that isn't something you feel like you can do? Is there a point where requests become gratuitous/optional by proxy, and if so, where?

Granted, the majority of people probably aren't going to make requests like that and my feelings on the matter probably aren't the same as everyone else's, but I would feel more comfortable knowing the boundary lines if we went with something like the level system - since the option to be super specific and pigeonhole people into writing a certain kind of thing doesn't really click well with me.

I would not want to write a review that crosses boundaries or makes someone else uncomfortable, which is why I think preferences are a good thing, but I also wouldn't want to be handed a list of different review specs for each fic and told 'make it work', which is why I think specifications should be treated carefully.
 
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qva

Pokémon Trainer
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
i like the level idea; nothing in particular to add there, kinda just vibing with that osj and kint have had to say.

something did come to mind about its implementation though. i feel like we don’t get as much mileage out of the prefix dropdown (currently the thing that lets you designate your submission as pokémon fanfic or not) as we maybe could? using it for the level would mean we’d have to come up with some other way to visibly distinguish pokémon and non-pokémon submissions, but that doesn’t seem impossible. maybe a new subforum for non-pokémon work?
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partner
dratini
Lots of great points so far! I just want to add that on the narrow issue of Catnip Circle games, if we adopt a system that has a level for "no crit of any kind," then fics with that level tag (or similar language) probably won't be submittable to Catnip. A tag like that is basically saying "don't like, don't review," which isn't possible in a review game based on random chance. Participation involves opening yourself up to the possibility that you might read a fic outside your comfort zone and that you might receive some crit on the fic you submit.
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
I wouldn't TERRIBLY mind a level system but i def. prefer custom disclaimers because that's what i do for one fic already
 
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